The Bible and the Bronx: Living Out the Mission of Christ in the Inner City

Like any good Navigator, Peter and Amanda Trautman, who minister with The Navigators to students at New York University, emphasize the importance of really getting into the Word of God. They talk about the value of hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Scriptures. And, of course, they talk about how important it is to apply the Bible to everyday life.

What’s a little different about the Trautmans’ situation is what happened when the Bible really got into a couple of NYU students to whom they were ministering. Two of the young women in their ministry, Jillian and Sara, had decided to read the Gospel of Matthew together—and do whatever it said. By the time they got to the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, they felt that God was calling them to a radical change in their lives. Their response was to move out of their comfortable life in the dorm into one of the toughest, poorest, and most dangerous blocks in the South Bronx.

There, Jillian, Sara, and their roommate, Val, live out the mission of Christ. They help one of their neighbors—a single mom—raise seven children. And in the summer they run a camp for the neighborhood kids. They’ve even started a mentoring program that pairs other Navigator students with kids from the block.

Here, in their own words, are some of their impressions of what God is doing in and around them as they seek to apply what they’ve learned.

It's been a really exciting week here as God has been showing up pretty unexpectedly in our conversations with neighbors. As He would have it, all of those neighbors are teenaged boys. God has not given us any men to mentor these boys but He has placed a curiosity in their hearts. Most of the time I don't really understand God or the way He moves but I think that is a good thing.

The other day we were hanging out with two boys from the block and our friend, Clinton, who was staying with us for a while. Conversation, of course, turned to girls, and Clinton was able to preach the Gospel to them about girls, sex, drugs, and life in general. The boys seemed to really take it to heart and one of them even mentioned it to me the next day.

[A few days later] we were having a normal conversation [with a couple of different boys from the neighborhood] when all of a sudden one boy asked me, "Who killed Jesus?"  Stunned, I ending up telling them about our own sin and how Jesus had to die for each of us. Then they asked, “So who was Jesus?” We talked about it a bit. [We’re] going to give each of these boys a copy of the New Testament and ask them if they want to read it on their own or with some of us!

[We] never imagined that God would ask us to be spiritual mothers to these boys, but until He provides them with more permanent men in their lives who are willing to take on the task we are happy to do it! Pray for us that we'd have the boldness and understanding to speak the Gospel into these boys lives and that we would be able to find men to also do this with them!

This is a crucial element of Navigator ministry—living out the mission of Christ among the lost. The apostle Paul captured this so beautifully when he wrote, “But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:7,8).

We remain committed to getting people into the Word of God. But we’re continually amazed at what happens when the Word of God gets into the people with whom we work! 

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